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Comment: Re:it is the wrong way... (Score 1) 291

by ScentCone (#47481761) Attached to: Australia Repeals Carbon Tax

A carbon tax does not affect every business equally.

But it will generally affect competitors equally. Two different taxi companies, or two different electricity generating companies that use coal. Or two different hotels of the same class and size in the same city.

And since competing businesses tend to have to lower prices in order to remain competitive in the same market as they pursue the same prospective customer, the tax burden is going to raise costs (and lower margins) more or less the same for both (or several) parties.

Comment: Re:it is the wrong way... (Score 3, Interesting) 291

by ScentCone (#47479901) Attached to: Australia Repeals Carbon Tax

The entire idea is that businesses will strive to become more efficient such that they produce less pollution so that they'll be taxed less.

But because such penalties impact all businesses in whatever country is collecting them, it won't really change things - because all of those businesses will simply pass along the new government-mandated increase in their overhead along in the form of higher prices. To the businesses in question, it just goes in one door and out the other. You want to use the heavy hand of the tax collector to damage people's behavior in a way that makes them go out less, drive less, spend less, do less? Tax citizens directly, with a very special line item they can't miss, that says "carbon tax, because you exist" - and they'll act. Well, mostly they'll act to elect people who will undo that tax, but they'll act.

Comment: Re:Railroads killed by the government... (Score 1) 195

by squiggleslash (#47474927) Attached to: The Improbable Story of the 184 MPH Jet Train

No, I didn't contradict myself otherwise you'd have quoted me contradicting myself, instead of acknowledging it using different phrasing, "loss leader".


What makes food service profitable is that passengers ride the train that otherwise wouldn't. Tell Amtrak to discontinue food service, and it would destroy ridership on their already poorly performing long distance services. The subsidy needed to continue operating them would skyrocket, and would be immensely high per-passenger.

If something results in more revenue without a corresponding or larger rise in costs, it's never legitimate to describe it as "loss making." Never. So yes, it's entirely valid for me to call the claim "dubious at best".

Comment: Re:And? (Score 2) 195

by squiggleslash (#47473545) Attached to: The Improbable Story of the 184 MPH Jet Train

Nah. There's a lot of crap spoken about the NYC Jet train thing. One presumption, which has more to do with smarty-pants hindsight, is that it was a prototype for a serious train, that NYC actually planned to run high speed trains like that. But that's not the case.

NYC added jets to some unused rolling stock because it was a _quick_ _cheap_ way to get a train to go fast. They wanted a train to go fast because they were studying how high speed trains would interact with the track. Would it be possible to run them without huge infrastructure upgrade costs?

And lest you think "But track's track right? Surely all they have to do is make it strong enough", there are known problems with running trains at high speed on conventional track without significant engineering. The major one is something called "Hunting", which is an oscillation of the wheel sets between one extreme and the other that generates a kind of feedback loop. With slower trains, it's not a problem, there's not enough energy involved, but as the train reaches higher speeds, the wheelsets oscillate left and right with greater, and greater, violence. Anything over 100mph generally is thought to require a certain amount of attention.

"OK", you say, "But why jets? Why not just regear a normal locomotive and have it carry a couple of cars so it can get to that speed?" The answer to that is that a normal locomotive is heavy. Virtually every vision of high speed rail from sane people (that is, people who don't work for the Federal Railroad Administration) involves trains that are as light weight as practically possible, because heavy = more energy needed to start the train, heavy = more problems stopping the train in an emergency, and heavy = greater damage to tracks. Sticking a Jet, designed for an aircraft, a device known for needing designs where every pound of weight is justified, on a railroad carriage doesn't sound so insane now does it?

Had NYC continued to exist rather than being merged into PR in the horrific Penn Central project, and decided to make a serious go of this, you would have expected the research to lead to a conventional EMU style train, or maybe something like the APT with light weight cars and as light weight as possible electric motive units. No trains with jets. It's an interesting question what the railroad map of the US would have looked like had governments not imposed impractical restrictions on urban redevelopment, had they not overregulated the railroads, and had the Penn Central never happened.

Comment: Re:Railroads killed by the government... (Score 2, Informative) 195

by squiggleslash (#47473475) Attached to: The Improbable Story of the 184 MPH Jet Train

I think pretty much everyone accepts the government killed passenger rail. It's not just what you mention, but also state support for suburbanization and the running down of Urban areas, including effective bans on Urban redevelopment (well meant but poorly thought out "parking mandates" effectively made it prohibitively expensive to redevelop land in cities), leading to the flight out of cities to areas where car ownership was mandatory.

As far as Amtrak losing money on food service, despite it becoming a right-wing meme that this true, it's dubious at best. Amtrak doesn't charge enough for food to cover the costs of providing it, but that's normal, both commercial services - even pre-1950s when most passenger services were profitable - and government provided services generally don't expect to make their money from charges for food.

What makes food service profitable is that passengers ride the train that otherwise wouldn't. Tell Amtrak to discontinue food service, and it would destroy ridership on their already poorly performing long distance services. The subsidy needed to continue operating them would skyrocket, and would be immensely high per-passenger.

This wouldn't even be an argument but for some stupid politics in the 1980s, where Congress started to micromanage the service and decided, despite the fact no commercial railroad would dream of doing such a thing, to demand Amtrak make food service "pay" for itself out of food service charges, rather than be paid for in part through ticket revenue.

So why is Amtrak unprofitable?

Amtrak's actually pretty profitable in one area, the NEC, which is where they control their tracks and were able to build a redundant (that is, a train covering stops already covered by other trains) service that people actually wanted to use, and charge commercial rates for it.

The big problem is outside of that area, it has much less flexibility. It runs very slow (average 40mph) trains that are slow because they stop every 20-30 minutes. Why do they stop every 20-30 minutes?

Want to know? Specifically, why does the SIlver Star stop in both Orlando and Winter Park which are both part of the same metro area?

Answer: because Orlando gives them Corrine Brown's vote when funding comes up in Congress, and Winter Park gets them a (semi-reluctant, he's having to avoid attacks of being a RINO from a strong Tea Party movement) John Mica's vote. And likewise there's a train in, I don't know, the North West that stops every twenty minutes to get votes there too. And each vote crosses over. The votes in the North West are for both the Empire Builder and the Silver Star, you can't vote for one without the other. Brown and Mica's votes are, again, for the Silver Star and the Empire Builder.

Ludicrous? Yes. But we don't have a Congress based upon people deciding the "right" thing to do for the country, we have one based upon people deciding the popular thing for their constituents.

Given enough capital funding, Amtrak could probably do to the rest of the country what it's done to the North East, but it'll never get that funding, because what it needs to do is something that'd involve dropping stops, and thus dropping supporters. The good news is that private railroads are finally taking an interest, and there are projects in both Florida and Texas right now - active, in the process of getting regulatory approval, by companies who own or will own the tracks - to start building what people want to use, not what Congress makes possible.

I'm not blaming Amtrak for this state of affairs. I'm blaming Congress, and by extension, us voters.

Comment: Re:For us dummies.... (Score 1) 382

by squiggleslash (#47461447) Attached to: White House Punts On Petition To Allow Tesla Direct Sales

Traditional car companies see Tesla as a threat

No, they really don't. Tesla's a small luxury car manufacturer, these come and go with depressing regularity.

The car manufacturers are just as unhappy with the dealership system as Tesla is. The difference is that they're resigned to it, having worked with it for decades.

Want to know one reason why Ford didn't go bust but GM did? GM's large number of brands meant it had more dealer agreements, and each cancelled dealer agreement was a lawsuit waiting to happen, so it ended up burdened with more brands and more dealers than it needed.

Comment: Re:Had to stop after a minute... (Score 1) 401

by squiggleslash (#47461137) Attached to: Comcast Customer Service Rep Just Won't Take No For an Answer

Try something out of left field that they're unlikely to have an answer for (from marketing, anyway.)

"I'm opposed to Comcast's position on net neutrality" would be a good one. You can kinda feel good making it, and they're not going to add long drawn out political positions to their anti-churn script.

Comment: Re:No safe uses (Score 1) 199

by ScentCone (#47439777) Attached to: FAA Pressures Coldwell, Other Realtors To Stop Using Drone Footage

I doubt there are any safe uses for a drone. Do we really want a remotely controlled small aircraft flying around our homes and communities?

You're right. You're definitely on to something there. And while we're making sure that a professional real estate photographer with his reputation on the line is not to be trusted with a three and a half pound quadcopter, we should be even MORE restrictive of the OTHER dangerous stuff that's moving around our homes and communities. Like, pre-occupied 19 year olds driving cars. Like large dogs on cheap leashes. Like idiots on mountain bikes hopping curbs and cutting through read lights. Definitely start with the Evil Drones, but please don't stop there! There are so many dangers! Oh, definitely don't forget steak knives and riding lawnmowers.

Comment: Re:Define "safe commercial use of drones" (Score 1) 199

by ScentCone (#47439755) Attached to: FAA Pressures Coldwell, Other Realtors To Stop Using Drone Footage

How do you know that all those real estate agents are using the drones safely?

Never mind the tiny number of people shooting a few real estate stills from treetop level. How do you know that the many, many thousands of people who are flying around for fun are being safe? But the FAA (so far) is honoring congress's mandate that hobbyists be left alone, even though they just said that hobbyists flying FPV style are no longer allowed. Regardless, the hobby drone market has hundreds of thousands of customers. There might be a few hundred people shooting real estate. Can you explain why you think it's a good thing to hurt them, but not to care about all sorts of reckless hobby newbies (just search on YouTube)? Please be specific.

How do you know that the real estate agent really knows how to fly one of the drones

How do you know that your neighor, who just had a ready-to-fly quad dropped off by UPS and who's in the air 30 minutes later, is safe? Really. How do you know? And why do you think that people who are doing it professionally, with their businesses and reputations on the line, are more dangerous than a 12 year old kid next door who's on his third quad having crashed the first two in spectacular fashion? How do you know? Please be specific. Because the FAA thinkks the 12 year old kid is fine, but the person who takes great care to avoid endangering their real estate business liability coverage while shooting the occasional photo should be stopped. An odd thing for you to support.

Comment: Re:Movies (Score 1) 199

by ScentCone (#47438373) Attached to: FAA Pressures Coldwell, Other Realtors To Stop Using Drone Footage

But one could describe yours as being backwards just as easily as mine. It's simply a matter of perspective.

If by that you mean that clearly written words in the English language have no actual meaning, then sure, I guess. If you mean that the Constitution, and the countless supporting documents and correspondence written to, between and about its authors and the large groups of representatives that agreed on its purpose and amendments to it were just setting us with something that had no actual meaning, then sure. But that's BS, and you know it.

No, I never said "every" anything. I said drones. Period.

The Constitution makes no such distinctions between one tool and the next. But of course the people who wrote it were very clear that there were some tools that some people would - given a period of power in the congress - try to deny to the public, and so they added amendment that explicitly reminded the government that it cannot act in those areas. The Constitution is built around the concept that the government's powers over what you may or may not do it inherently limited to the things that are enumerated therein, and generally prohibited otherwise, with the states having all such other authority. This isn't a matter of "perspective," and it isn't true for certain tools, and false for other tools. If you think that "drones" (but not, say, chain saws) should be singled out for capricious bans by the federal government despite laws recently passed by the congress explicitly to the contrary, then you're completely missing the point.

Personally I'd say they were flying model aircraft not drones.

Semantic games like that show how completely unserious you are.

... using a car to take people where they ask. If you are doing it for free, or nothing more than fuel cost split, no problem. If you are doing it commercially then you tend to require a permit.

A matter decided upon, legislatively. at the municipal, county, and (rarely) state level. Not by capricious extra-legal, counter-constitutional fiat from a political appointee of the White House, as in the case at hand.

Comment: Re:Can someone explain how... (Score 1) 199

by ScentCone (#47438239) Attached to: FAA Pressures Coldwell, Other Realtors To Stop Using Drone Footage
Because the FAA, by federal statute (passed by congress, which is made up of representatives of all of the states), is granted that regulatory authority. There is legal precedence for their authority over everything that flies in the air, right down to an inch above the ground. Which doesn't mean that their position on this stuff isn't incredibly absurd. But it's their turf.

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik